Heuchera | How to grow and care for coral bells

Heuchera is a perennial foliage plant, commonly known as Alumroot and Coral bells.

Native to North America, these evergreen foliage plants belong to the Saxifragaceae family.

Heuchera

They require less care, frost, and water tolerance. But, in the beginning, if you do not establish them properly, you won’t be able to enjoy their beauty.

In this post, you will get all the information about how to grow and care for Heuchera.

So, let’s start:

How does Heuchera look like 

Coral bells are one of the popular foliage plants.  

Just like Hostas and Coleus they also have many species and cultivars or hybrids.

They have almost 37 species, however, the modern world with the use of hybridization between different species developed better and colorful cultivars. 

Heuchera

These cultivars are differentiated based on shapes, sizes, and colors.  Coral bells have big, broad leaves that form dense mounds of foliage. 

Also, produce small bell-shaped flowers that bloom in spring or early summer.

These are rich in nectar flowers, attract beautiful butterflies and hummingbirds, plus make beautiful flower cuttings.

Are they frost-hardy?

They are frost hardy which thrives in the hardiness zone 4-8. Grow 12 – 36 inches tall in height and spread 12-18 inches wide.

Coral bells are also used as ground plants just like Asiatic jasmine and generally planted by gardeners in containers, gardens, borders, rocks, and woodland.

When to plant Heuchera

The best time to plant coral bells is in early spring or late winter. Depending upon your region or climate condition decide when to plant. 

Where to plant

Heuchera does well in both sun and shade. But, it does mean planting in full sun or shade.

The best place to plant is in the spot where they get early morning sunlight and afternoon shade, they require at least six hours of sunlight.

Heuchera Border

The requirement for sunlight also depends upon their varieties. 

Varieties and cultivars with dark foliage like ‘Obsidian’ do well in full sunlight whereas light-colored foliage prefer shade like ‘Electra’

How to propagate heuchera plants

You can propagate coral bells from seeds and by division. Propagation from seeds does not guarantee to grow as a parent plant because most of them are hydrides.

From seeds

If you want to grow from seeds:

  • Then first start growing in a small pot and later transplant them in the garden. 
  • If you have a green thumb then definitely; you can grow directly in the ground.
  • Take 2-3 fresh seeds and sprinkle on the soil, do not show them as they need sunlight to germinate.
  • Use nutrient-rich soil, add organic fertilizer like tea bags and banana pill to the bottom of the pot. This will save you from feeding fertilizer in the growing season.
  • Place the pot in the windowsill and spray water to keep the soil moist.
  • Generally, it takes a couple of weeks for germination, so have patience.
  • When seedlings grow 5-6 inches long transplant them outdoors. 

Are coral bells easy to grow from seeds?

Maybe, but growing from seeds is time-consuming, plus most of them do not grow similar to their parent plant. As most of them are hybrids of different species. (Ask when buying)

From division 

The best method to propagate is from division. By division of big heuchera plants, you can achieve similar child plants. 

However, many hydrides do not prefer division, check plant labels specified as not for propagation (division).  

Heuchera

When to divide

Divide coral bells when they get dry and old, by dividing you can regrow multiple new green and healthy heuchera.

Here is what to do:

  • The best time for division is in early spring. Spring is the growing season for all plants which promotes new growth quickly.
  • Start the division process when the climate is cloudy. As the plant gets dried they easily toss it out from the ground.
  • Before division first, decide where you want to plant their parts. You can regrow in containers, borders, and soil beds.
  • Grab gardening gloves and make the soil soft by scratching the surface.
  • Sprinkle plenty of growing fertilizer on the soil, it will help them to grow faster.
  • Extirpate or pull out the old clump of heuchera from the ground, using your hands.
  • Divide the group of branches into individual stem cuttings using shear.
  • Snip off all the leaves from the bottom of the stems, so that when you sow in the soil roots start growing.
  • Take a sharp shear and cut the bottom end of the stems until the white-colored tissue gets visible. 
  • Do not plant if the end side has brown spots, it might not grow properly.
  • Make stand these stem cuttings directly in the soil using your hands, do not sow too deep. (2-3 inches is enough.)
  • Keep at least 5-6 inches gap between each stem cutting, otherwise, the area gets crowded when they get mature. This leads to many problems.
  • Show patience, it nearly takes 14 days to grow new roots and a month to get established. You do not need to confirm their growth.
  • After some weeks you will notice new foliage start growing. 

How to grow heuchera in pots

Heuchera grows very well in containers or pots. In fact, they are one of the most comfortable perennial plants in pots. As they are drought tolerant and do not mind in small spaces.

Heucheras

Here is what to plant:

  • Take a medium-sized pot about 6-8 inches in diameter that has drainage holes for water flow.
  • Put plenty of small stones or rocks in the bottom to create air space and fill the pot with potting mix soil.
  • Fill ⅓ of the pot with soil then fill organic compost like tea bags and then cover it with soil.
  • Plant heuchera in the center of the pot. 
  • Do not plant too deep, keep the root clumps slightly higher than the soil.
  • Pour water to make the soil moist and place the pot in a sunnier spot. Do not place in direct sunlight.
  • When you want to overwinter your plant, then simply relocate the pot in a dark room and do not water when they dormant.

Generally, Coral bells bloom in spring and summer.

Will they spread

Heuchera is an evergreen plant, if you plant them in a limited space like a container and pot then they won’t spread much. But in the garden they cover a wide area, you have to trim occasionally to maintain their shape.

Some popular varieties

Here are some popular varieties and cultivars of Heuchera that you can grow in your home garden.

Let’s see them:

Heuchera ‘Stormy Seas’

This is a vigorous cultivar that forms a dense, oblong-shaped mound of foliage. Initially, their foliage is purplish-bronze that fades into a green cover with the slightly silver veil.

Heuchera ‘Obsidian

This variety is known for its dark-purple foliage that looks almost black. 

Heuchera ‘Marmalade’

This cultivar features unique russet to amber foliage and red-brown blooms. Flowers appear

in late spring to early summer.

Heuchera ‘Micra that

This is one of the most widely planted varieties of coral bells, featuring very large, lustrous, star-shaped leaves. 

Heuchera ‘sanguine

Clump-forming perennial that forms basal-like foliage, colored red and grows up to 8-10 inches tall.

Companion plants

Plant coral bells with perennial plants to have a contrasting look in the garden borders. 

Choose any one among these and make a wonderful pair.

Care for Heuchera

Heuchera does not need much care, however, there are some basic conditions they need to thrive.

08 - 2020 09 01 - Heuchera Chantilly with bee

Let’s discuss them:

Soil

Good drainage is a must, they do not like to stand in water. Plant in rich and humorous soil with pH levels somewhere between 6-7.  

They thrive best in gritty and sandy soil, traditionally they are grown in rock gardens where the plant clumps remain drained and dry. 

Do not plant in clay soil, it promotes root rot which is definitely not good. 

Light 

Most of the coral bells prefer partial shade, planting in full sun or intense sunlight may fade colored foliage. 

Especially light-colored foliage, cannot tolerate full sun just like ‘pale skin’ cannot. If you plant in full sun; you have to water frequently to keep the soil moist.

However, planting in the full shade can also be prone to fungal disease and cause wilting. Plant where they get 6 at least hours of sunlight.

Temperatuer and humidity

Generally, coral bells thrive well in hardiness zones 4 through 9, although it depends upon the variety which you are growing and how hot and cold it gets.

Water

Adding too much water can cause several problems like root rot and fungal infection.

Water only when you feel the soil get dry, if you have planted in full sun check regularly. In shade, they can live without water for longer.

Flowers - (PL) Żurawka

When water does not wet the foliage and stems, try to keep the body part dry. They may get infected if they remain wet for too long.

A good practice is to water directly in the base of the plant. If you know if the foliage starts turning yellow and brown.

Add mulch 

Spread mulch around the base of the coral bells. Mulch helps to keep the soil moist, plus protect roots in winter from night water showers. 

Coral bells crowns can heave above the soil in the winter, mulch prevents the freezing cycle that pushes plants up. Check periodically that the roots cannot get exposed.

Fertilizer

Coral bells have low feeding requirements. Avoid heavy application of quick-release fertilizer, as this can inhibit flowering. 

In the spring feed coral bells with ½ inches of organic compost or a light amount of slow-release fertilizer.

Container-grown heuchera should feed with water-soluble fertilizers to replenish nutrition (follow instructions behind the fertilizer packet.)

Prune

When you notice any yellow-brown foliage or flowers snip off them. This will make coral bells look neat and promote new growth; this is called deadheading. 

Heuchera 'Snow Angel'

Yellow-brown foliage can form if plants get waterlogged or have poor air circulation. 

Overwinter Heuchera

In frost, they stop new growth and go dormant. If you have planted it in a container, then shift it to a dark place and stop watering. This will send them dormant; bring them back outside in the next season.

Transplant

Transplant in the same soil level as they had earlier root clump, do not sow too deep.

If you want to transplant from the pot then, take a grub hook and toss out the plant. Clear all soil from roots and sow them in the soil.

How to take Heuchera cuttings 

Take a shear and cut the node stems. Do not rip or tear stems apart as this can cause permanent damage. You can take their flower cutting to make a group and keep it a vase.

Pests and diseases

Powdery mildew

  • Coral bells generally get infected by fungal infections like powdery mildew. 
  • Infection may include rust, in the garden rust is rare but common in the greenhouse.
  • These fungal infections mainly occur due to poor airflow or excessive water.
  • To make air circulation good, clean their surrounded plants and water only on the base.
  • You can use insecticides occasionally to make sure they do catch an infection.
  • If they are suffering from an infection problem and you want to fix it, use a copper fungicide.
  • Use them infrequently as you can, most of the fungal diseases get slowed down when in the fall. 
  • You have to diligently monitor the plants. To identify this problem.

Slugs

  • If you see large holes in foliage, your precise plant is eaten by slugs. 
  • You can remove slugs from your hands at night if possible. 
  • Otherwise, make a slippery border. Around the plant, so that they cannot climb it.
  • You can also make large holes around the plant and put a cup or container that has slippery sides.
  • Once slugs drop it in the container they do not come out. 
  • Till the morning the whole container gets filled with slugs and can be fed to the birds.
  • Coral bells are deer and rabbits resistant but rabbits do eat their flowers.
  • Vine weevils are the main pest to look after, they cut irregular notches in leaf margin and grub feeds on the roots that sometimes cause plant’s death.

FAQ

Is heuchera toxic?

They are not toxic if you have pets in the house consider planting them.

Why is heuchera dying?

There are many reasons such as:
It might get attracted by pests and diseases.
Get root rot due to excessive water or poor drainage.
They might have Bad air circulation.

Did I Miss Anything?

Now I’d like to hear from you: which tip from today’s post are you going to try first?

Or maybe, I didn’t mention your favorite plant growing tip. Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

P.S. I myself reply to every comment

Before going if you want to grow beautiful flowers in your garden? Then click on these articles also.

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